The Kansas City Royals signed 32 year-old second baseman Omar Infante on December 16, 2013. The deal was inked for 4 years, $30.25 million with a team option for a fifth year for $10 million. This filled up a pretty glaring hole in the Royals' roster, as they used six different second baseman (Chris Getz, Johnny Giavotella, Emilio Bonifacio, Elliot Johnson, Jamey Carroll, and Miguel Tejada) to limp along.
It is no sure thing that the Infante deal will be a good one. He will be owed $8 million in 2017, when he will be 35 years old. For a slugging first baseman, that age isn't that big of a deal, but for a middle infielder, that age usually implies bad things. However, $8 million isn't all that much, and all teams carry iffy contracts. The book is still to be written about Infante.
But what Infante does bring, for now and the near future, is stability and competency at a position for which the Royals used a litany of poor players. There may be no third baseman tree, but there isn't even a hint of a second baseman weed. The young players have failed (Giavotella, Colon). The old players have failed (but with grit and bunts). The experience has been like kissing your sister, only your sister is a graveyard of disappointment and dashed hope.
To take a look back, here are the past 10 individual seasons, ranked from worst to best, by the Royals' primary second baseman. In a few cases the Royals used multiple players, but I do not look at these contributions (they are replacement players, after all). In addition, I don't split any offensive statistics if they played any other position as well for simplicities sake, as they all played the majority at second. Here we go.
10. Ruben Gotay, 2005: -0.7 fWAR, 64 wRC+, -12.0 UZR/150
Yeah, this was pretty bad. Gotay did this in 317 PA, too, which is even more impressive. Dayton Moore has been on the job for so long that 2005 was the last year without any Moore influence. The Royals were not a good team then; the 2005 squad has the dubious distinction of losing 19 games in a row in July/August.
9. Chris Getz, 2013: -0.1 fWAR, 52 wRC+, 7.5 UZR/150
The wonderful Chris Getz was offensively horrible. However, defensive statistics liked him a little. Getz had lots of good qualities; he was technically proficient and a smart ballplayer, a great baserunner, and a reliable fielder. Unfortunately for him, he didn't hit for average, was impatient at the plate, and had no power. These things are slightly more important than the first set. And by slightly I mean extremely.
7, Tie. Omar Infante, 2014: 0.3 fWAR, 76 wRC+, 1.5 UZR/150
7, Tie. Chris Getz, 2012: 0.3 fWAR, 81 wRC+, -3.4 UZR/150
This is, uh, not what the Royals had in mind when signing Infante. However, this is pretty much just a case of Infante being particularly unlucky. His BB% is right at career average, he's striking out less, and his ISO is in the ballpark for his career average as well. However, his BABIP is a good .047 below his career average. That will even out eventually. ZiPS projects him to finish with 1.2 WAR, Steamer with 1.6.
Getz's 2012 was, if memory serves correctly, the year of his power stroke. I'm not sure if you can call it a 'power' stroke and still hit 19% below league average but Getz attempted. It was a valiant effort. Johnny Giavotella would have overtaken Getz if given a few more weeks playing time. Gio was really bad this year. And every year, really, but that's not the point.
6. Chris Getz, 2011: 0.6 fWAR, 66 wRC+, 6.9 UZR/150
Chris Getz is not a good ballplayer. Chris Getz was never a good ballplayer. In 2011, Getz starred for 429 PAs, the most in one season in his career. It didn't go terribly well.
5. Mike Aviles, 2010: 1.4 fWAR, 103 wRC+, -8.4 UZR/150
If you're thinking to yourself, 'gee, Moore seems to have made the second base position worse', you would be correct. Aviles, who never could please the Royals' management despite being a perfectly competent middle infielder, returned from Tommy John to put together a pretty decent year at second base. He was discarded in 2011, but did have one more good year in him.
4. Mark Grudzielanek, 2008: 1.5 fWAR, 97 wRC+, 4.3 UZR/150
Good ol' Grud has a good year, his last with the Royals. Most of the way to league average? That's a good thing.
3. Alberto Callaspo, 2009: 2.0 fWAR, 111 wRC+, -11.7 UZR/150
LEAGUE AVERAGE ACHIEVED. Except this was in the past, and the 'replacements' just didn't do much replacing. Anyway, Callaspo was very good offensively, which buoyed his pretty bad fielding. This was the early days, so Callaspo was traded for prospects at his peak value; specifically, Will Smith (yay!) and Sean O'Sullivan (boo!).
1, Tie. Mark Grudzielanek, 2006: 2.6 fWAR, 89 wRC+, 14.3 UZR/150
1, Tie. Mark Grudzielanek, 2007: 2.6 fWAR, 102 wRC+, 9.2 UZR/150
Marky Mark put up two identical WAR'd campaigns in back-to-back years in differing styles. Both, however, featured average hitting and good fielding. He was pretty reliable despite his age; he accumulated 586 and 486 PA, respectively.
- That's correct, only two of these seasons were above average. Two. Out of ten.
- Only three times did a Royals second baseman post an average or better offensive line
- Man, Chris Getz was bad
Omar's HR last night was fantastic. Let's hope for more of those, so the Royals can have more competency. If that isn't a ringing endorsement for the second base position and its future, I don't know what is.